Donated blood saved K-State student’s life after surgery

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Editor’s note: This is a first-person account from one K-State student whose life was saved as a result of receiving a transfusion of donated blood.

I was always accident prone.

When I was little, I’d get hurt all the time. I think I’ve sprained almost every joint in my body – some twice. I was used to being hurt, but it was always temporary. Never could I have imagined an injury that would last longer than a couple weeks, or at most, a couple of months. Imagine my shock when I received an injury requiring 16 units of blood to save my life.

The pain started in spring 2003. For the life of me, I can’t recall if the pain was really that bad. It was more discomfort an actual pain. Sometimes, I would just feel sick after I ate, or I would have bad stomach cramps. I thought I could have lived with it, but I told my parents about it, and they thought we should consult a doctor.

Medical professionals ran tests, and my doctor concluded my gallbladder was the source of the problem. He said it wasn’t functioning correctly and should be removed.

We saw a surgeon and scheduled the surgery. It was supposed to be a simple surgery called a laparoscopy, requiring just four small incisions in the abdomen rather than a five- to seven-inch incision made during open gallbladder surgery. Patients usually have minimal post-operative pain and can go home within one day of the procedure, I was told. So, I thought, “Why not?”

The surgery was scheduled at Abilene Memorial Hospital for July 21, two days after my 18th birthday.

I wasn’t worried about the surgery; it was a routine procedure doctors performed every day. What could go wrong with a simple laparoscopy? Now that question rings ironically inside my head.

I woke up in the intensive care unit.

“Cynthia, you are in Salina Regional Hospital. There were complications with your surgery. Cynthia, please try to stop moving.”

A nurse was talking to me, but I was not listening. I tried to sit up, and pain engulfed my body. It felt like someone had inserted a circular saw into my body. Every time I moved, it was like the saw turned on and cut through my insides. My mom took my hand. She told me that something had gone wrong with my surgery.

While making one of the incisions, my surgeon had cut into my left iliac artery, causing extensive internal bleeding. I had a repair surgery a day later, and my new doctors put a graft in my severed artery to stop the internal bleeding. They also removed my gallbladder, which the original doctor had not even done.

Today, the 10-inch scar down the middle of my abdomen is a reminder of what happened 3 1/2 years ago. I was in the hospital for 17 days, received 16 units of blood and had 26 staples in my abdomen.

The average person has 10 pints of blood, so essentially, doctors replaced my entire blood supply. I thanked my doctors and nurses, but I will never be able to thank my true lifesavers – my blood donors. It’s frustrating to know my heroes are walking around somewhere, and I will never get the chance to tell them “thank you.”

Every day, I wonder when I’ll have to go back to the hospital for more repair surgeries. I take a pill that helps me digest my food, and take an aspirin to prevent my blood from clotting in my left iliac artery where the surgeons put the graft. And every day, I think of the individuals who took the time to save my life by donating blood.

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